Walz unveils $518 million infrastructure proposal

A man talks to a woman in a clinic room in front of a dummy patient.
Gov. Tim Walz visits a training room at at University of Minnesota's Health Sciences Education Center during a tour on Monday to announce a $518 million bonding proposal. Dr. Lou Clark, executive director of M Simulation, explains how the training dummy works. The HSEC was paid for in part with $67 million from the 2017 bonding bill.
Matt Sepic | MPR News

Updated: 4:15 p.m.

Gov. Tim Walz says he wants the Legislature to pass a package of public construction projects again this year.

Walz announced his latest bonding bill proposal Monday at the University of Minnesota. The DFL governor said his plan represents a $518 million investment in infrastructure projects across the state.

Walz said nearly half of the plan will pay for repairs and improvements at state agencies and higher education institutions

“You fix your roof before it collapses. You repair a leaky pipe before it leads to water damage,” Walz said. “That’s exactly what this plan prioritizes, taking care of what we have.”

The proposal includes $240 million in General Obligation Bonds, $250 million in Appropriation Bonds and an additional $28.3 million in General Fund cash.

The recommendation includes a $43 million project to make security upgrades to the state Capitol and other nearby government buildings.

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There is $150 million in Redevelopment Appropriation Bonds to help rebuild areas of Minneapolis and St. Paul that were damaged by rioting last year.

The plan includes $100 million in Housing Infrastructure Bonds to preserve and build new housing across the state.

An additional $15 million is designated to projects by community organizations that serve people of color and Native Americans.

Additional projects that make use of federal funds include a new State Veterans Cemetery in Redwood Falls and the planning efforts for a second daily Amtrak train between the Twin Cities and Chicago.

Lawmakers passed a $1.9 billion bonding bill last year, but it took them until an October special session to get the job done.

Democrats will need the support of House Republicans to pass any bonding bill. Passage requires a three-fifths supermajority.

The Democratic chair of the House Capitol Investment Committee welcomed the governor’s proposal.

“With low interest rates, Minnesota’s AAA bond rating, and a great need to help our state bounce back from the economic impact of COVID-19, there’s no reason Minnesota shouldn’t have a robust jobs and local projects bill this year,” said Rep. Fue Lee, DFL-Minneapolis. “Now is the time to invest in Minnesota.”

Sen. Tom Bakk, I- Cook, who chairs the Senate Capital Investment Committee, noted the large binding bill passed last year and didn’t commit to action on another one this year.

“This year the top priorities at the Legislature are putting together the state budget and appropriately responding to the coronavirus pandemic,” Bakk said. “I am committed to helping bring people together to the tackle the important challenges facing our entire state. At the appropriate time, I am hopeful the Legislature and the governor will again come together to produce a bonding bill focused on the critical needs of Minnesotans.”

House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, said he is willing to discuss a proposal, as long as it is small.

“It depends on the projects,” Daudt said. “If there are projects that are necessary, that should be worked on, we’re certainly open to it. In a nonbonding year, we traditionally do a small bonding bill, something in the $100-$150 million range.”